In grades-obsessed Singapore, a young footballer dreams big

Told to give up on football as a career, Meridian Junior College captain and Hougang United player Justin Hui speaks to FourFourTwo about juggling both studies and football and says he is more determined than ever to succeed...

It is anything but easy being a budding footballer in Singapore - just ask Hougang United starlet Justin Hui.

Since he developed a love for the Beautiful Game at the age of eight, many have had their reservations with Hui taking his dream to the next level.

His teachers have advised him time after time to concentrate on hitting the books first.

His mother, a teacher, wanted him to focus on his studies.

His teachers in Meridian Junior College (MJC), where Hui is now a second-year student, have advised him time after time to hit the books first.

His beloved sport's status in Singapore's professional football league hangs in the balance, as funding for S.League clubs for next season is reportedly set to be cut.

But even with the odds seemingly stacked against him, Hui is adamant he will pursue his passion - being a professional footballer.

Hui captained MJC to their fourth straight A Division title

“I cannot control these circumstances outside of football. All I can do is work hard and try to perform well week in week out so I can secure a job as a footballer," said the 19-year-old.

"If I consistently work hard, I am quite confident it can work out for me.”

For A (Levels), I am just barely coping, to be honest. I am averagely prepared. They don’t really understand my passion for football

Hui wants to tread the path less taken and excel in both academics and football. He is so determined that he retained his first year of junior college - just for football.

“I retained my first year of JC to follow the U18s for Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifiers in 2015, so I missed my final year exams,” said Hui.

“Being in junior college, the environment is heavily focused on academics. Some teachers are telling me to not focus on football and that studies are more important.

“For A (Levels), I am just barely coping, to be honest. I am averagely prepared. They don’t really understand my passion for football. A lot of people trying to change my mindset.”

[Next: One step at a time]